RASNZ Electronic Newsletter June 2015

The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 174

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/ in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.


1. Graeme Murray MNZM
2. Murray Geddes Prize to Graeme Kershaw
3. Asteroid Day - June 30
4. The Solar System in July
5. Study of Eclipsing Binaries
6. Reports from Gerry Gilmore's Lecture Tour
7. Galaxy Mergers Fuel Quasars
8. Philae Phones Home
9. International Astro Photo Winners
10. IAU Outreach Newsletter
11. Did the K-T Impact Re-ignite Massive Volcanism?
12. How to Join the RASNZ
13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

1. Graeme Murray MNZM

The Queen's Birthday Honours for 2015 included the Membership of the NZ Order of Merit (MNZM) to Graeme Douglas Murray of Lake Tekapo for services to tourism. In 2004 Graeme, along with Hide Ozawa, established Earth & Sky Ltd. The company runs night-time astronomy tours on Mt John where clients are shown the naked-eye night sky and can look through a variety of telescopes. The company also has an observatory east of Lake Tekapo village at Cowans Hill.

Earth and Sky's Astrocafé on Mt John is now a fixture on the daytime tourist map. Together, these ventures have greatly increased tourism in the Mackenzie region. The astro-tourism has shown locals that dark skies can bring many commercial opportunities. In 2013 Earth & Sky won the Champion Canterbury Business Award for a Large Tourism Enterprise. Also the following year it was one of three finalists in this category.

As well as investing much in Earth & Sky, Graeme has also been active in promoting the protection of the night sky. In 2007 Graeme and his wife Carolyn attended the Starlight Conference in La Palma, Canary Islands, where an international legal framework for protecting dark sky regions was discussed and UNESCO's Starlight Declaration was issued.

Graeme has long been associated with tourism in the Mackenzie generally, chairing the region's tourism promotion board, and being a principal in Lake Tekapo's Air Safaris for many years before he launched Earth & Sky.

2. Murray Geddes Prize to Graeme Kershaw

At the RASNZ's 2015 Conference at Lake Tekapo, the Murray Geddes Memorial Prize was awarded to Graeme Kershaw. The citation for Graham's award follows. -----

Graeme Kershaw has made extensive contributions to New Zealand astronomy over nearly 50 years in his role as Technician - Mechanical Workshop for the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury. Graeme´s commitment and passion for his work has contributed to the achievements of many professional research astronomers and their projects.

Mt John University Observatory and others have benefitted from Graeme´s design and manufacturing skills. He built Canterbury´s Cassegrain échelle spectrograph in the mid-1970s, using Harvard-Smithsonian designs. It was the first astronomical spectrograph in NZ. Graeme was the mechanical designer of the 1-metre McLellan telescope at Mt John University Observatory contributing to the telescope´s mechanical structure, and assisting with the design and fabrication of many other aspects of the telescope. This telescope was the largest in the country and built entirely within New Zealand and greatly increased the range and importance of the research projects that could be undertaken at Mt John.

Graeme has continued to perfect the 1-metre. Several years ago he rebuilt the hour-angle encoding system. About three years ago he installed a completely new mirror cell on the 1-metre. This has noticeably improved the seeing, presumably by reducing the warm air layer around the mirror.

He was also responsible for the mechanical construction of the Hercules (High Efficiency and Resolution Canterbury University Large Echelle Spectrograph). Other instruments he designed and built were the CCD photometer head and the medium-resolution spectrograph.

His skills in mechanical design, assembly and testing were called on for the Critical Design Review and Recommendations for the South African Large Telescope (SALT) High resolution Spectrograph. Graeme has also been involved with maintenance of Christchurch´s Townsend telescope for nearly as long as he has worked for Canterbury University. This includes a restoration of the telescope in the 1970´s. The historic telescope, a 6-inch refractor made by Thomas Cooke and Sons of York, England in 1864, was recovered from the rubble of the Christchurch Arts Centre tower which collapsed on February 22, 2011 in the most damaging of the Christchurch earthquakes. Following the tower's collapse, Graeme has looked after the telescope remains that had been retrieved by the Arts Centre staff and is closely involved in a restoration project to rebuild the Townsend Telescope and restore it to the Arts Centre.

He was a strong supporter of the telescope restoration project with a mission to raise $100,000 for the telescope´s restoration. Another historic Christchurch telescope, the Tripp Telescope belonging to Christ's College, was also damaged in the September 2010 earthquake. The College contacted Graeme in 2014 to assess, repair and upgrade the telescope.

He has now fully restored the tube, the mount, including repairs to damaged parts, and has designed, manufactured and fitted a drive motor assembly. The telescope is due for return to Christ´s College early in 2015.

Graeme´s work has received recognition over the years with acknowledgements in a number of papers and articles.

3. Asteroid Day - June 30

Asteroid Day, a global day of education and awareness about asteroids, is being held on June 30, the anniversary of the largest asteroid impact on Earth in recent history, the 1908 Siberian Tunguska asteroid Impact.

A full listing of Asteroid Day events can be found on the AsteroidDay.org website, including activities for the two premiere events in London and San Francisco. The film "51 Degrees North," about a futuristic asteroid impact and its human ramifications, will premiere at London´s Science Museum IMAX Theatre. At the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, the B612 Foundation and CalAcademy are hosting a full day of activities dedicated to education about asteroids. Regional events have been locally organized in many countries. Live webcasts from San Francisco, London and other locations will also be available online throughout the day at AsteroidDay.org.

Last December, astrophysicist Dr Brian May joined Lord Martin Rees, UK Astronomer Royal, Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and Astronauts Rusty Schweickart, Ed Lu, and Tom Jones to announce Asteroid Day and the 100x Declaration. It calls for a 100-fold increase in the detection and monitoring of asteroids. Lord Rees read the declaration, which resolves to "solve humanity´s greatest challenges to safeguard our families and quality of life on Earth in the future." Signed by more than 100 highly respected scientists, physicists, entertainment and business leaders, and Nobel Laureates from 30 countries, the 100x Declaration will be available for public signature beginning in June at AsteroidDay.org. For a full listing of signatories, see http://www.asteroidday.org/signatories-list

The panel notes that the current rate of discovery of 20-meter NEOs and larger is about 1,000/year. At that rate it will take more than 1,000 years to find one million NEOs that potentially threaten Earth. Even then we´d have found only 10% or so of the Chelyabinsk-size objects that potentially threaten impact. The panel is calling for an increasing our asteroid discovery rate to 100,000 (or 100x) per year within the next 10 years.

Additional information on Asteroid Day, the 100x Asteroid Declaration, as well as photos and video and live webcasts are available at http://www.asteroidday.org and http://change.org

-- From a B612 Foundation press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

While on the subject of asteroids, there is a release of a Ceres video from the Dawn spacecraft at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4614

See also Item 11.

4. The Solar System in July

Dates and times are NZST (UT + 12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Earth is at aphelion on July 7 at about 4 am. It will then be 1.0167 AU, 152 million km from the Sun.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in july

                    July  1  NZST                July 30  NZST
                 morning     evening            morning  evening
             rise: 7.45am,  set: 5.04pm     rise: 7.28am, set:  5.26pm
 Civil:    starts: 7.16am, ends: 5.33pm   starts: 7.01am, ends: 5.54pm
 Nautical: starts: 6.42am, ends: 6.08pm   starts: 6.28am, ends: 6.27pm 
 Astro:    starts: 6.08am, ends: 6.41pm   starts: 5.55am, ends: 7.00pm

July PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

  Full moon:     July  2 at  2.20 pm (02:20 UT)
  Last quarter:  July  9 at  8.24 am (June  8, 20:24 UT)
  New moon:      July 16 at  1.24 pm (01:24 UT)
  First quarter: July 24 at  4.04 pm (04:04 UT) 
  Full moon:     July 31 at 10.43 pm (10:43 UT)

The planets in july

Venus and Jupiter will be a spectacular pair the first few evenings of July, closest on the 1st, gradually separating during the rest of the month. Mercury may be briefly visible in the morning before sunrise early in July, and possibly just visible in the evening at the end of July.

Saturn is easily visible all evening, setting well after midnight. Mars remain too close to the Sun for observation.

MERCURY may be briefly visible in the morning sky shortly before sunrise early in the month. On the morning of the 1st, 45 minutes before sunrise the planet will a low 8° above the horizon in a direction a little east of northeast. The planet's magnitude will be - 0.1. A week later Mercury will be half a magnitude brighter, but less than 5° up at the same time.

The planet closes in on the Sun until it is at superior conjunction on the morning of July 24. At conjunction its angular distance from the Sun as seen from the Earth will be about 1.5°. It will actually be 200 million km from the Earth, 48 million km beyond the Sun.

After conjunction Mercury will become an evening object. By the end of July it will set just over half an hour after the Sun. On the 31st the planet will be very low almost directly below Venus. Its magnitude will be -1.2, but it is not likely to be visible in the bright twilit sky.

Mercury starts July in Taurus, it enters Gemini on the 9th and moves on into Cancer on the 23rd.

VENUS and JUPITER start July as a close pair just under 20 arc-minutes apart (two-thirds the diameter of the full moon) on the 1st. Venus will, of course, be much brighter than Jupiter. The spectacular conjunction is likely to be a little subdued due to the full moon but the latter will be on the opposite side of the evening sky to the pair of planets.

Both planets spend the month in Leo. In the evenings following their conjunction Jupiter will rapidly fall behind and get lower than Venus. At first Venus will look to be moving towards Regulus but will turn away from the star, being stationary on the 23rd. Jupiter will move much more slowly but steadily towards the star. It will be August before they are at their closest.

On the July 18 the moon as a very thin crescent will be just over 6° to the left of and slightly lower than Jupiter. The following evening will find the moon close to Venus with the two about 1.6° apart. Regulus will be about 3° from them.

On the 19th the moon will occult Venus, an event visible in daylight from Queensland. The path of the occultation passes to the north of New Zealand.

MARS will be a nominal morning object during July. On the 1st it rises only 6 minutes before the Sun. So the planet will be far too close to the Sun to see. Things are little better at the end of July. Mars will then rise about 45 minutes before the Sun, but be so low in the morning twilight that at magnitude 1.7 it will not be visible.

SATURN will be well placed in the evening sky throughout July. It will be moving slowly to the west in Libra, not moving very close to any bright stars. It is joined by the 71% lit, gibbous moon on the 26th. The latter will be about 2.5° to the lower right of Saturn mid evening.

Saturn's north pole will be tilted 24° towards the Earth so that the ring system is well open for viewing.

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, at magnitude 8.6, should be visible as a faint object in binoculars given a dark sky. It is best observed when Titan is at is greatest distance from Saturn, about 3 arc-minutes. Its greatest elongations to the east (left) of the planet are on the July 3 and 18, to the west (right) of Saturn on July 11 and 26. On the first and last dates moonlight may make Titan difficult to see in binoculars. July 3 is only a day beyond full moon, on the 26th our moon is close to Saturn.

Outer planets

URANUS is in Pisces all July. It rises shortly after midnight on the 1st and some 90 minutes before midnight of the 31st. At magnitude 5.8 it is readily seen in binoculars. The planet is stationary on the morning of July 27 after which it will start moving in a retrograde sense to the west.

NEPTUNE rises just before 10 pm on July 1 with its rise time advancing to just before 8 pm on the 31st. The planet remains in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9 to 7.8, so is quite easily seen in binoculars.

PLUTO is in Sagittarius all July and at opposition on the 6th. It will then be nearly 32 astronomical units from the Earth and near 33 from the Sun with a magnitude 14.3.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres is in Microscopium much of July, but moves into Sagittarius in the 25th. It rises an hour and a half after sunset on the 1st and nearly as much before sunset on the 31st. It does not pass close to any bright stars during the month. The asteroid is at opposition on July 25 and brightens to magnitude 7.5 for a few nights near that date.

(4) Vesta is essentially a morning object in Cetus throughout July. It rises just after midnight on the 1st and at 10.30 on the 31st. Its magnitude brightens from 7.6 to 7.2 during the month.

(15) Eunomia starts July on the border of Pegasus and Pisces at magnitude 9.7. The asteroid rises half an hour after midnight on the 1st and at 11.15pm on the 31st.It is in Pisces for the rest of the month within a few degrees of the magnitude 2.8 star gamma Peg. At their closest on the 14 the two are 1.5° apart. By July 31 Eunomia will have brightened to magnitude 9.1

-- Brian Loader

5. Study of Eclipsing Binaries

Variable Stars South has been working on a project to measure the light elements of southern eclipsing binary (EB) stars. The work has been undertaken by a large number of observers using CCD or DSLR equipment and a number of analysts. The results for 78 stars have been published by lead author Margaret Streamer in JAAVSO 43 (1) 2015, the current issue of which has now become available.

Visit the main JAAVSO site http://www.aavso.org/apps/jaavso/ and look well down the list under the heading Variable Star Data. The paper is in pdf format, available for download.

Abstract: Revised Light Elements of 78 Southern Eclipsing Binary Systems JAAVSO 43 (1) (2015) Since 2011, members of Variable Stars South have undertaken intensive time series observations and analysis of eclipsing binary systems, most of which are south of declination -40°. Many of them have not been observed in detail since their discovery 50 to 80 years ago. New or revised light elements are presented here for 60 systems and revised O-C values for a further 18 systems. A pulsating component has been discovered in four of the binary systems: RZ Mic, V632 Sco, V638 Sco, and LT Her.

Author List: Margaret Streamer, Jeff Byron, David J. W. Moriarty, Tom Richards, Bill Allen, Roy Axelsen, Col Bembrick Mark Blackford ,Terry Bohlsen, David Herald, Roland Idaczyk, Stephen Kerr, Ranald McIntosh, Yenal Ogmen, Jonathan Powles, Peter Starr, George Stockham.

-- Alan Baldwin

6. Reports from Gerry Gilmore's Lecture Tour

The Beatrice Hill Tinsley lecture series by Professor Gerry Gilmore of Cambridge University was very successful. Edited reports from the involved centres follow. -------

Auckland The Auckland Astronomical Society hosted the talk at the University of Auckland and co-promoted with the Physics department. We had an audience of 225 to 250 people. A mixture of society members, student and general public. We also had people come from Whangarei (Northland Astronomical Society) and the Waikato Astronomical Society. The talk went down very well with the audience and the speaker pitched it at the right level. I also had good feedback from Gerry Gilmore that he enjoyed his visit to Auckland.

Nelson We had a full house; about 110 people: we had to send out for extra chairs. People's expectations were very high for the talk, and were exceeded. Professor Gilmore spoke really well, and kept everyone engaged. The audience had plenty of questions for the speaker afterwards. Clearly they were interested in the topic. We had a good mix of people and ages. Nelson has plenty of people who are interested in science, and I get the impression that there is more demand than supply.

Whanganui The midweek lecture in the Davis Lecture Theatre of the Whanganui Regional Museum attracted an audience 52, with two from the Palmerston North Astronomical Society. Professor Gilmore's lecture covered some of the differences in method that astronomy has from other scientific fields, the state of our knowledge now, where we are likely to progress our understanding of the Universe, and touched on the possible limits of Cosmological understanding for humans. Gerry's presentation was very well received by a scientifically-oriented and rational audience with plenty of sensible questions to follow, and we got a quick rundown on Gaia as well.

>From one of the audience: "Professor Gilmore gave a galloping, humorous, informative and fascinating talk. I don't know how he managed to pull all that scope and history together but he managed it brilliantly. The talk was somehow deep and beautifully simple at the same time. You could sense that underneath the overview for laypeople was some awfully complicated physics."

Coffee at the Ward Observatory after the lecture for about half of the attendees gave an opportunity to chat, and also for Gerry to mentor an interested senior secondary student.

We would like to thank the RASNZ Lecture Trust for the opportunity to host a lecture from such an eminent astronomer and gifted communicator.

Gisborne The Gisborne Astronomical Society, ran a very successful public lecture whereby Professor Gerry Gilmore spoke to us about, "Astronomy, Cosmology and the Big Questions in Nature". About 220 people packed the Lawson Field Theatre. Gerry´s talk was very well received and copious questions covering a diverse range of topics followed - lasting about 45 minutes. The meeting began at 7:00pm and concluded at 9:00pm. Many people personally thanked Gerry for an excellent presentation afterwards.

Wellington The turnout was a little disappointing due to the 100-year storm the previous day. It took out all public transport and many roads were under water and impassable. This put many people off attending the lecture. Nevertheless we ended up with 70 people.

The Chairman of the RASNZ Lecture Trust Glen Rowe introduced Gerry but first he gave a very good introduction of the Beatrice Hill Tinsley lectures and how it came about.

Gerry's talk was the same as that he presented at the RASNZ conference at Lake Tekapo but went on much longer and there was a lot of feedback.

Glen also did the final thank you on behalf of the Trust and presented Gerry with a gift. Marilyn Head gave a special thank you on behalf of the Wellington Astronomical Society.

-- From a report by Bob Evans, Treasurer, RASNZ Lecture Trust Inc.

7. Galaxy Mergers Fuel Quasars

Using the Hubble Space Telescope´s infrared vision, astronomers have unveiled some of the previously hidden origins of quasars, the brightest objects in the universe. A new study finds that quasars are born when galaxies crash into each other and fuel supermassive, central black holes.

"The Hubble images confirm that the most luminous quasars in the universe result from violent mergers between galaxies, which fuels black hole growth and transforms the host galaxies," said C. Megan Urry, the Israel Munson Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Yale University, and co-author of the study published online June 18 in The Astrophysical Journal.

Quasars emit a light as bright as that of one trillion stars. Over the past two decades, researchers have concluded that the energy for quasars comes from supermassive black holes inside the cores of distant galaxies.

But where do the supermassive black holes get their fuel? It had been theorized previously that such energy could come from the merger of two galaxies. The new study confirms it by using Hubble´s sensitivity at near-infrared wavelengths of light to see past the intense glow of the quasar, to the host galaxies themselves.

The Hubble observations show that the peak of quasar activity in the early universe was driven by galaxies colliding and then merging together. Those studied were "dust reddened quasars" found in several ground-based infrared and radio sky surveys. These quasars are enveloped in dust, dimming their visible light.

Eilat Glikman of Middlebury College in Vermont, lead author of the study, used Hubble´s Wide Field Camera 3 to look at 11 such quasars from the peak of the universe´s star-formation era, 12 billion years ago. "The new images capture the dust-clearing transitional phase of the merger-driven black hole scenario," Glikman said. "The Hubble images are both beautiful and descriptive."

For text and images see http://news.yale.edu/2015/06/18/galactic-crashes-fuel-quasars-study-finds

8. Philae Phones Home

After seven months of electronic hibernation, Philae has awakened on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and resumed relaying its data to Earth.

When scientists at the European Space Agency last heard from Philae, early on November 15th, the washing-machine-size lander had survived an unexpectedly rough-and-tumble arrival on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and managed to relay a substantial amount of data to Earth before exhausting its onboard batteries. The transmissions ended sooner than expected, after only 57 hours, because Philae had wedged itself in a heavily shadowed location that offered little direct sunlight to recharge its batteries.

Ever optimistic, ESA's engineering and science teams never stopped believing that the comet's changing solar geometry would eventually provide enough sunlight to bring the lander out of its electronic hibernation. That's now happened, as a joyful ESA press release announced on June 14. About 85 seconds of telemetry had reached Earth late yesterday, relayed via the comet-orbiting mother ship Rosetta.

Philae appears to be in good shape despite seven months of inactivity, reporting that its internal temperature is -35ºC and that it has 24 watts of electricity available. Apparently the lander revived sometime before yesterday as some historical data was also received.

ESA engineers are awaiting further transmissions from the lander, which can only occur when Rosetta is within view. So far 300 packets of data have been received, but more than 8,000 data packets are stored in Philae´s mass memory. Those data should reveal details about the comet's activity over the past few days.

Ever since it fell silent, efforts to figure out exactly where Philae landed on the comet's very irregularly shaped nucleus. Using visual and radio tracking after the landing last year, combined with a radio beacon from the CONSERT radar experiment aboard Philae, searchers had recently narrowed the possible landing sites to a few areas. Close-ups taken after the landing in mid-December even revealed a tantalizing bright spot that, perhaps, revealed Philae amid a rubble field. Presumably, now that it's transmitting again, a firm location can be quickly established.

More importantly, a healthy Philae can potentially add important ground-zero measurements as the nucleus of Comet 67P becomes more active en route to its perihelion on August 10th.

-- By Kelley Beatty of Sky & Telescope Magazine, June 14. See the original article at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/spacecraft-and-space-missions/comet-lander-philae-phones-home/?et_mid=761616&rid=246399573

9. International Astro Photo Winners

For a superb collection of night sky photos with interesting scenery see the 2015 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest Winners at http://twanight.org/newTWAN/news.asp?newsID=6101

-- Pointed out by Jennie McCormick.

10. IAU Outreach Newsletter

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) Office for Astronomy Outreach has released its Newsletter 2015 #7. It can be seen online at http://www.iau.org/public/publications/newsletter/2015_07/

The editorial notes that light pollution is one of the major focus areas for the International Year of Light. A conference in Quebec "Artificial Light at Night" discussed topics such as finding solutions to the problem of blue-rich LEDs by using amber LEDs and PC-amber LEDs. Recent progress in setting up international dark sky parks and reserves was demonstrated to participants during a visit to a state-of-the-art dark sky park.

Some of theNewsletter's topics are:

CosmicLight IYL2015: Support "Measuring the Speed of Light" Citizen Science Project. This project aims to combine multiple observations with small telescopes around the world to recreate Roemer's famous measurement of the speed of light. See http://speedoflight2015.co.uk/

UNAWE Universe in a Box Honoured with Best Science Education Resource Award. Universe in a Box is the low-cost, inquiry-based astronomy education resource of Universe Awareness (UNAWE). On 22 May, Universe in a Box was awarded the Scientix Resources Award for "STEM Teaching Material Addressed to Teachers".See http://www.unawe.org/updates/unawe-update-1534/

Planetary maps for children. This project features a series of detailed, hand-drawn lunar and planetary maps created for children. The six Solar System bodies mapped by planetary scientists and graphic artists are now available in 11 different languages. These maps are developed according to the latest data from space probes and supported by a website where the user can find background information. Details: https://childrensmaps.wordpress.com/

Night-sky measurement with a digital camera: Campaign Observation 2015. This campaign of night-sky brightness observation with a digital camera, by the Japanese astronomy group Hoshizora Kodan, will start this [northern] summer. This campaign aims to make a night-sky brightness map of East Asia, and anyone who has a digital camera can join. You can find details on capturing images and uploading your data in a "4 Steps for Measurement" guide outlined at http://dcdock.kodan.jp/?lang=en

astroEPO Shorts. astroEPO Shorts is a series of weekly selected news from the astroEDU team. All topic are related to astronomy communication and astronomy education. astroEDU is a platform that allows educators to discover, review, distribute, improve and remix astronomy education activities and offers a free peer-review service by professionals in education and science. See https://medium.com/@iauastroedu

-- From the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Did the K-T Impact Re-ignite Massive Volcanism?

It has long been known that some mass extinction in the geological record are associated with episodes of prolonged volcanic activity. These happen when plumes of hot rock rise through Earth´s mantle and generate huge lava flows, called flood basalts, like the Deccan Traps in India.

Since the 1980s it has been established that the asteroid impact that made the Chicxulub crater off the Yucatán coast of Mexico also wiped out the dinosaurs and around 90% of other species. This is known as the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) mass extinction. Muddying this hypothesis, though, has been the improbable coincidence of the impact with the vast and prolonged volcanic activity that made the Deccan Traps in India.

One proposal was that seismic energy from the Chicxulub impact was focused on the opposite side of the Earth and caused the volcanism. This theory was abandoned after continental drift calculations showed that the Deccan Traps were 5000 km from the antipodal point of the impact.

Recent work by a group at the University of California Berkeley suggests a solution. They confirm that the Deccan volcanism was occurring well before the impact. However, their field work has determined that the volcanism had stopped some time before the impact. It was re-ignited about 100,000 years after the impact when it produced most of the magma.

The coincidence of the new volcanism with the impact is highly improbable. To explain the connection the team suggest that the earthquake made by the impact -- around magnitude 9 globally! -- restarted the magma plume toward the surface. The Deccan lava flows erupted for several hundred thousand years after the re-ignition probably spewing immense amounts of carbon dioxide and other noxious, climate-modifying gases into the atmosphere. How much these worsened the mass-extinction is a matter of debate.

-- A summary of a long press release from the University of California Berkeley, forwarded by Karen Pollard. See the original and much more at http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2015/04/30/did-dinosaur-killing-asteroid-trigger-largest-lava-flows-on-earth/

12. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 May 2015. There will be a secondary round of applications later in the year. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

For an application form contact the RASNZ Executive Secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697.

15. Quote

"Can we actually `know´ the universe? My God, it´s hard enough finding your way around in Chinatown." - Woody Allen.

"Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don't add up." - James Magary.

"To have doubted one's own first principles is the mark of a civilized man." - Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand